The bilingual cognitive advantage debate: Publication bias and other challenges when interpreting the literature

28th January 2020 : 13:00 - 14:00

Category: Seminar

Research Group: Applied Linguistics

Speaker: Angela de Bruin, University of York

Location: Department of Education, Seminar Room G/H

Convener: Hamish Chalmers

Audience: Public

Seminar Abstract


The question whether bilinguals possess certain cognitive advantages compared to monolinguals has been the focus of many studies and has led to a heated debate. While there are many studies showing that bilinguals outperform monolinguals on executive control tasks (e.g., on tasks measuring the ability to switch or inhibit irrelevant information), there are many others that show no cognitive differences between the two groups. This talk will not focus on the question whether bilinguals and monolinguals differ in their cognitive functions. Instead, it will focus on various challenges we face when interpreting the literature. One of those challenges is publication bias, referring to the finding that positive studies are more likely to be published than studies showing a null or negative result. I will discuss the role of publication bias in this field, how the publication of positive versus null results might change over time, and how biases hinder a reliable interpretation of the literature. In the second part of the talk, I will focus on some other challenges we face when reading the literature and when conducting meta-analyses on this topic, including the role of task impurity when measuring executive control and the need for a better description of bilingual (and monolingual) participants. I will finish with some recommendations for future studies.

About The Speaker


Dr. Angela de Bruin is a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of York. Her research interests include bilingualism, language switching, language production, executive control, and cognitive ageing. She completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh on the topic of bilingualism and executive control, followed by a Marie Curie Fellowship at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (Spain). She joined the University of York in September 2019, where she will continue her work on bilingualism and language production across the lifespan.